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Spotlight Series: Daniela Freitas Santos, Senior Engineering Manager, Rows

Daniela Freitas Santos, Senior Engineering Manager, Rows

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Daniela is a senior engineering manager at rows, a next-generation spreadsheet company allowing teams to build and share better reports and automate their workflows.

Daniela has been in the tech industry for over 25 years- starting out in software development for EFACEC and holding software engineering positions at SIEMENS, Nokia and now Rows.

WE SAT DOWN WITH DANIELA TO TAKE A LOOK AT HER CAREER JOURNEY, WHAT AN AVERAGE DAY LOOKS LIKE AS A SENIOR ENGINEERING MANAGER AND HER ADVICE TO OTHER WOMEN IN TECH.

HOW DID YOU LAND YOUR CURRENT ROLE? WAS IT PLANNED? 

My career journey was never planned, but more a natural evolution based on my previous professional experiences. I’ve been in software development leadership roles for over 15 years, having worked at some of the largest telecommunications organisations including the likes of Siemens and Nokia. I am thankful for these experiences because they allowed me to experiment with different activities and work out what truly motivated me.

My path to where I am now is down to this curiosity to continue exploring and find my purpose.

WHAT ARE THE KEY ROLES IN YOUR FIELD OF WORK, AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE YOUR CURRENT EXPERTISE? 

Engineering has always been a part of my life, both at university and throughout my career. It’s something I am passionate about and where I have always found new opportunities. I am also very people-focused so being able to find that balance was important to me. Thankfully, the industry has changed a lot (along with my expertise), which has enabled me to find the sweet spot when I embraced an R&D/software management role.

DID YOU (OR DO YOU) HAVE A ROLE MODEL IN TECH OR BUSINESS IN GENERAL?

There isn’t a specific person that I have looked up to, but I have found people along the way that have been a source of inspiration. Whether a manager or a colleague, you should always learn from the people around you. It’s healthy to celebrate the feeling of empowerment, whether in yourself or in colleagues. We are all on this journey together, so why not make the most of the people you are surrounded by?

WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR CAREER, SO FAR?

I have been involved in some incredible projects that continue to astound me to this day. As an engineer, you really feel like you are building something from the ground up, which allows me to experience a significant amount of fulfilment from my work. Technology is a powerful thing, and I am constantly amazed at its capabilities when it is experimented with by people.

Besides the many projects I work on that make me proud, I would say my managerial experience has been especially rewarding. The feeling of knowing that I have contributed in some way to helping somebody achieve professional growth is inspiring, and the reason I enjoy my role so much.

WHAT DOES AN AVERAGE WORK DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU? 

In my current role at Rows, a typical day could go from testing a new functionality being developed in our spreadsheet, to having a 1:1 with an engineer who is looking to progress their career, to conducting interviews to find the right talent for our team, and finally a brainstorming session around our product, designing new ways to improve the user experience of our platform. The start-up world is incredibly fast-paced, and I am often struck by how quickly my days can go by.

ARE THERE ANY SPECIFIC SKILLS OR TRAITS THAT YOU NOTICE COMPANIES LOOK FOR WHEN YOU’RE SEARCHING FOR ROLES IN YOUR FIELD? 

If I had to name a select few:

  • A genuine motivation for the field of work, the company and the people that are part of the team.
  • Commitment to the work you are doing day-to-day – the process of designing products can be long and we often face hurdles along the way, so it’s important to be surrounded by people who have a shared sense of purpose.
  • Accountability when it comes to personal and collective responsibility. We want people who are honest and true to themselves.
  • Resilience is equally important – the work is incredibly fast-paced and varied, so people should be adaptable and respond positively to change.

HAS ANYONE EVER TRIED TO STOP YOU FROM LEARNING AND DEVELOPING IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE, OR HAVE YOU FOUND THE TECH SECTOR SUPPORTIVE? 

My experience of the technology sector has been very positive. I have been surrounded by great professionals who have supported me throughout my career whenever I have faced challenges. It’s key for people in any team to make sure that they are offering a high level of respect and appreciation for their colleagues so that each person is working in their best frame of mind.

HAVE YOU EVER FACED INSECURITIES AND ANXIETIES DURING YOUR CAREER, AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?

I would be lying if I said that I had never faced insecurity and anxiety in my career, whether it is about anything I am working on or a specific environment I am in. While many people say that you should ignore these feelings, I think they are important to acknowledge in order to learn from them. If you think about the end goal and what you want to achieve, the insecurity you are experiencing in that moment will feel like a small hurdle to a much more meaningful outcome you are working towards.

ENTERING THE WORLD OF WORK CAN BE DAUNTING. DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS OF ADVICE FOR ANYONE FEELING OVERWHELMED? 

  • Pursue continuous learning.
  • Focus on your end goal – it helps.
  • Find your own work-life balance.
  • Surround yourself with people that inspire you to be a great professional.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHER WOMEN WANTING TO REACH THEIR CAREER GOALS IN TECHNOLOGY? 

The first and most important thing is to believe in yourself and your capabilities – your skills and potential in life are not determined by your gender. People should also work to cultivate a strong professional network, seeking out role models and friends who are there to support and guide you on your journey.

And finally, foster resilience in yourself and those around you by being positive.

The professional world takes you on a rollercoaster of experiences that will all build up to make you the person that you are today, so cherish every moment, and take on that next daunting opportunity.

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